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Media releases
31 January 2023

Consumer NZ: Affected by flooding? Know your rights

Consumer NZ has produced concrete advice for people impacted by the recent and ongoing weather events.

“The effects of the devastating flooding will be varied and wide-reaching,” said Jon Duffy, Consumer NZ’s chief executive. “We want to help people understand their rights in these unprecedented and challenging times.”

Tenants’ rights

Landlords should be aware they are responsible for maintaining the property. This includes damage caused by flooding and storms.

If you’re a tenant and the property has been damaged by flooding, you should contact your landlord – they are responsible for drying out the property. This includes any costs associated with the drying process, including the cost of electricity.

Landlords are not responsible for any damage flooding has caused to tenants’ belongings. If you’re a tenant and you have contents insurance, contact your insurer.

If your rental has been damaged but is still inhabitable, the rent should be reduced. Alternatively, the landlord or tenant can apply to the tenancy tribunal to end the tenancy.

The tribunal can decide whether the landlord should fix the property or whether the tenant should stay on with a reduced rent.

If a rental property is destroyed or seriously damaged, the tenant can give notice to end the tenancy.

The tenant must give two days’ notice, but the landlord needs to give seven days’ notice. The tenant can then stop paying rent. These time frames apply to periodic and fixed-term tenancies.

Temporary emergency housing is available. If you need emergency housing, refer to NEMA in the first instance.

Earthquake Commission (EQCover) for flood and storm damage

If you have private house insurance which includes fire insurance (most policies do), you have EQCover.

EQCover provides some cover for damage to residential land if your property is damaged in a storm or flood.

Contact your house insurer – it will manage any EQCover for land.

EQCover is provided for land under or within 8 metres of a home as well as some outbuildings, such as a shed or garage. It will cover the cost to repair damage to the insured land, or the value of the land – whichever is less.

Where a landslip has occurred, EQCover will cover damage to the home or surrounding land which has been caused by the landslip.

Flooding cancellations – know your rights

The flooding has led to cancellation of flights, accommodation, events, and various other bookings. Consumer has summarised guidance for people impacted by these cancellations.

Domestic flights

When a domestic flight is cancelled because of the weather, the airline does not have to provide a refund or reimburse any costs you incur as a result of the cancellation.

Your rights depend on the type of fare purchased and the airline’s terms and conditions. If you bought a refundable fare, you are entitled to a refund regardless of the reason for the flight cancellation or delay.

If you don’t have a refundable fare, the airline will usually rebook you onto another flight or give you a credit.

Air New Zealand is offering flexibility on all flights to, through and from Auckland – domestic travellers can either get a credit or defer travel up to (and including) 6 February.

Jetstar is offering passengers a credit or the option to defer a flight up to (and including) 30 January, for up to 14 days from the original travel date.

International flights

If an international flight is impacted by flooding, your rights depend on which country you’re in, where you’re going and which airline you’re flying with.

Usually, when an international flight is impacted by something outside the airline’s control, the airline will rebook people onto the next available flight or provide a credit.

If you have travel insurance, you could be covered. Check your policy and talk to your insurer.

Air New Zealand is allowing international travellers with flights to, through and from Auckland, to defer their travel up to (and including) 13 February. It is also offering credits to customers booked on international flights.

If you have booked a fully refundable fare, you can ask for a refund.

Airbnb bookings

If you have to cancel an Airbnb booking because of flooding, Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy will apply. This overrides the usual cancellation policy and means you will be entitled to a credit or refund.

If an Airbnb host cancels your booking prior to check-in, you should automatically receive a full refund. Airbnb may also be able to help you find alternative accommodation.

Other accommodation providers

Cancellation rights and refund eligibility will depend on the accommodation provider’s terms and conditions.

If you’re impacted by an accommodation cancellation, check the terms and conditions of your booking. Look for these terms: ‘cancellation’, ‘refund’, ‘act of God’ and ‘force majeure.’ A ‘force majeure’ or ‘act of God’ is an event which no one is at fault for – including natural disasters. Contracts will normally have terms outlining your rights in such circumstances.

For Bookabach reservations, the cancellation policy will be unique to the accommodation. If you can’t find that policy on your booking confirmation or on the accommodation listing, contact the host.

Cancellation fees may apply but should only be charged if the terms and conditions allowing it were in place at the time of booking.

Cancellation fees must be fair – a company can’t charge whatever it likes. Any term which lets a company charge a steep cancellation fee risks being unfair and breaching the Fair Trading Act.

Concert cancellations

If a concert or festival is cancelled, you should get a refund from the ticket agent. Contact the ticket agent for advice.

Refunds will normally be made to the credit or debit card used to purchase the ticket(s).

Ticket agents will currently be dealing with a significant number of refund requests. If an agent refuses a refund request, providing you paid for your ticket(s) using a debit or credit card, you can ask your bank for a chargeback.

If you bought your ticket from a private seller, it may be trickier to get a refund.

Restaurant bookings

If you can’t get to a restaurant you’ve booked because of flooding, the contract between you and the restaurant is likely to be ‘frustrated’. This means it was impossible for you to hold up your side of the deal and you should not be charged for a no-show.

If possible, let the restaurant know you can’t make it.

Retirement village residents’ rights

Residents who need to evacuate a retirement village should receive clear direction from the retirement village operator.

If a resident needs to move, this should be at the village operator’s cost – regardless of where the resident is moving to.

When it comes to weekly fees, if a resident is moved to another unit within the same village, it’s likely the resident will continue paying their weekly fee.

If a resident is relocated to a different retirement village, then it’s up to the two village operators to negotiate the rate.

If a resident’s unit is not repairable, the village operator should talk to the affected resident(s) about next steps. Options could include replacing the unit, transferring to another unit or leaving the retirement village.

The village operator must consider the residents’ views but does not have to agree with those views. It must set out the terms of its decision in writing and provide the resident with a copy.

As with tenants, retirement village residents are responsible for their own contents, and should contact their contents insurer.

Consumer has created a dedicated page with detailed advice for people affected by the flooding.

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